08 Apr 2010
So, here I am sitting in the tasting room, with an amazing view of the hills north of Spokane. Like a typical Spring day in the Northwest, the clouds are simultaneously flirting with rain and sunshine. I’m sipping on a 2002 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon with the wine maker. The wine has JUST NOW been released. How many wineries that you know are releasing their 2002 wines in 2009/2010?
Townshend Cellars has grown from a small production boutique winery to a powerhouse of quality producing over 20,000 cases per year from a selection of 20+ wines. Located 20 miles North of Spokane in beautiful Green Bluff, Townshend Cellars is a destination for wine in the heart of apples, strawberries and pumpkins. I’m ashamed to admit this was my first visit to Townshend, and even worse, my first experience with ANY Townshend wine. Before you discredit my wine experience, hear me out.
I first met Don Townshend for my review for the grand re-opening of Caterina Winery (Don recently took over ownership). While I’ve seen the T3, Vortex, and Table Wines in stores, I had yet to experience any Townshend wine. Upon my arrival, Don and Jill Rider (tasting room manager), welcomed me and the wine began flowing. What surprised me was the variety of wine that Townshend produces. From bubbles to Tempranillo, you can experience just about everything in the tasting room. – Seriously people, there are over 20 wines, including port, Rose, Chardonnay, Lemberger, Merlot, Malbec, Chenin Blanc and even Pinot Noir.
Townshend Cellars began in 2001 with the release of their 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon. That wine won the Inland Northwest’s best Cab and the praise has never stopped. Don attributes the success of Townshend to the Cab and the T3. T3 is a blend of Cab, Merlot and Cab Franc that was originally only available in restaurants. Customers can count on the wine to be consistent and a good value. Townshend’s signature wine spends up to 30 months in oak and another 3-4 years in bottle before being released. Sourcing 500 tons of grapes from Preston, Willard, Alder Creek and more, Townshend is committed to quality wine that releases when it’s ready, not when the cost sheet says so.
This winery visit included so many highlights. Don and Jill opened their 07 Malbec, 02 Cabernet Sauvignon, T3, and the biggest surprise, Huckleberry Brut. To be honest, this bubbly stuck with me so much that I’m still thinking about it. Made in the brut style, the sweetness of the huckleberry is subdued. Not a single Townshend wine is over $30. Check out the Diamond T club for 20% off of club shipments and 10% off wine and merchandise purchases.
While the current location was voted one of the top 10 places to have a picnic by Tasting Room Magazine, Don was excited to announce the ground breaking of a new tasting room further north in Green Bluff. The larger tasting room should be complete toward the end of summer with future expansion for wedding and meetings on the 20 acres coming in the next few years (check out the video for the amazing views).
It may have taken me a few years to experience Townshend Cellar but from what I’ve tasted, I can now relate to everyone who raves about the wine.
Townshend on the web: www.townshendcellar.com
Townshend on Twitter: @townshendcellar
Townshend on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Townshend-Cellar/107962877089
Open Thursday – Sunday Noon – 6pm
29 Mar 2010
Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Bordeaux…these may be the comfort wine of our world, but Spokane Winery Knipprath Cellars is making a bold departure and creating quite a stir with their Port line up and new focus on Iberian grape varieties Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Touriga Nacional. German born, Henning Knipprath grew his passion for wine in California, then started a winery in the state of Washington with a focus on Spanish/Portuguese wine. Henning brings his global experience to wine making and offers a perfect way to travel, with our palate, to new places!
(Henning is little quiet so turn up your volume)
After attending school in California and graduating with a Chemical Engineering degree, in 1990 the Air Force brought Henning Knipprath to Spokane (thanks, Uncle Sam). With a longtime passion for wine, Henning started Knipprath cellars in 1993. As an Air Force pilot, military deployments kept Knipprath Cellars a part-time operation until 1999 when they moved into their current location at 5634 E Commerce Ave. With his European background, Henning produced the “standard” Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet, Merlot), but it was his Port product that began getting the attention of consumers. “We didn’t set out this direction,” says Henning, “we were nudged by the customer’s response.” The nudge is so strong that Port sales are 60% of Knipprath’s production of 3000 cases.
The Port selection consists of a traditional ruby port, tawny port and creative delicacies that can only be described as desert in a bottle. The Au Chocolate is an infusion of pure chocolate extracts, and grape spirits while the yang to that yin is the La V vanilla port. The newest addition is the soon-to-be released Coffee Port. Look for a formal review soon. One might imagine some interesting creations by mixing two or even all three. In addition to Port, Knipprath offers hints of Henning’s German heritage with a seasonal spiced red wine using a recipe from his mother’s cookbook (Alpine Wine, $16), and a refreshing summer Lagrima (best served with a slice of lemon.)
The entire production of Knipprath wine (from grape to bottle) is done in the historic 6700 square foot Parkwater schoolhouse. Every inch of this building oozes character showing small hints of its use as a parochial school, military typing depot, and convalescence home. Henning has big plans for the space as he continues to think toward the future of expanded production, events space and expansive tasting room.
Next on the horizon for Knipprath Cellars is the release of a new label, La Bodega Del Norte. With Knipprath being so synonymous with Port, people often have a hard time recognizing the other quality wine. La Bodega Del Norte will focus on Tempranillo, Garnacha, and other Iberian grapes. Watch for these new releases in the near future.
Knipprath on the web: www.knipprathcellars.com
Knipprath on Facebook: search for Knipprath Cellars
Tasting Room Hours: Wed-Sun, Noon – 5pm
Old fashion phone call: 509.534.5121
26 Mar 2010
Spokane is an amazing place for wine. As you sit there in your robe and bunny slippers, I think it’s time to get out there and explore at least one of the sixteen Spokane wineries. I’ve tasted all but 2 (sorry Barili and Trezzi Farms – soon, I promise), and you can find just about anything to fit your tastes. Big bold cabernet from Robert Karl, award winning Cab Franc from Barrister, specialty Huckleberry d’Latah from Latah Creek and even small production effin’ Merlot from Liberty Lake.
What’s happening in the world of wine for March 26-28? This is your one stop shop for all wine events in Spokane! If I missed your event, let me know. I can update this post!
Spokane Tasting Room Tour – Most Spokane tasting rooms are open. Check out this tasting room map for contact information, hours of operation and video reviews.
Hospice of Spokane Taste of Life: Fifth annual Taste of Life! Enjoy fine wines from local wineries including: Arbor Crest, Barrister, Caterina, Grande Ronde, Knipprath, Latah Creek, Liberty Lake, Lone Canary, Robert Karl, Townshend Cellars and Vintage Hills. Spokane Club, $75, 5:30-8:30 – 509.456.0438
Music and Merlot at Whitestone Winery: Live music with Blue Eyed Soul a band from Seattle!
wine tasting, appetizers! 6-9pm at 111 S. Cedar; no charge!
Spokane Valley Firefighters Benevolence Fund: Tickets for the annual Spokane Valley Firefighters Benevolent Association’s Cask and Keg/Auction are available. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door. With each ticket you get a set number of tasting tickets, a free wine glass with the SVFFBA logo, a light buffet meal, access to the silent and live auction, as well as the entertainment of our D.J. and M.C. throughout the evening. If you would like tickets contact station 81; Steve Bailey 995.8318
Vino! A Wine Shop: Tastings from Hard Row to How (Chelan) 3:00 – 5:30; 222 S. Washington
Rocket Market: 43rd and Hatch, Cabernet Olympics, 343-2253
Left Bank Wine Bar: Live music at 8pm
Wine Styles: Wine Education: 6 Pm at WineStyles on 8801 N Indian Trail Rd. Join us Friday night for Wineaux University. Our guest speaker is Matt from Odom. We will be sampling 4 to 5 wines with a glass of your favorite. Only 25 Seats available, so please RSVP. Cost $15. Call: 468-WINE.
Taste Washington (Seattle): Join us for a weekend of wine and food tasting at one of the nation’s premier wine & food events. Seminars – Saturday, March 27 at Bell Harbor International Conference Center. Watch for exclusive LIVE VIDEO FEEDS from DrinkNectar.com (facebook.com/drinknectar)
Vino! A Wine Shop: Selections from Vinum Distributor, 2:00 – 4:30pm
Left Bank Wine Bar: Jazz at 8pm
A great time to get thee to a winery after church! Most local wineries are open.
Taste Washington (Seattle) Grand Tasting – Sunday, March 28 at Qwest Field Event Center
Things coming NEXT WEEK
Caterina Winery Winemaker Dinner Join winemaker Don Townshend and chef Jeremy Hansen at Santé Restaurant & Charcuterie for an extraordinary evening and an unforgettable seven course journey through local artisan-quality foods and wines. Monday, March 29 $100 per person
Lone Canary “Last Wednesday”: Our 2nd “Last Wednesday” event featuring Lone Canary Winemaker, Mike Scott, is themed “The Italian Job” (“The original Michael Caine version, though, not the overweight remake,” says Mike). Call in advance 534.9062 (space is limited)
First Friday is April 2 (various locations downtown)
For Local Wine Event information in Spokane and other cities, check out LocalWineEvents.com
22 Feb 2010
The story of Grande Ronde Cellars is the circle of life…wine life. It’s the story of a caterer who struggled to find good wine, so he opened a wine shop. It’s the story of a wine shop owner who struggled to find access to quality wine, so he started a distributorship. It’s the story of a distributor who fell in love with the process and passion of wine-making and used his connections with key grape growers to secure quality fruit. In 1997 Grande Ronde Cellars was born and now the circle is complete as they are a winery that uses a distributor to sell to wine shops and ultimately to consumers and caterers. Grande Ronde is operated by partners Dave Westfall, John Mueller, and David Page.
*Dave must be a little camera shy because he kept sneaking off screen. Ahh, the dangers of filming without a camera man. My apologies, Dave!
Grande Ronde sources grapes from two prestigious Walla Walla vineyards, Seven Hills and Pepper Bridge (added in 2002). The 1200 case production has remained the same for all 13 vintages. The French style wine production shows patience as each vintage spends between 14-18 months in 100% French Oak and is bottle stored for three years before release. The current single vineyard reds are 2003 Seven Hills Cabernet (reviewed below), 2003 Pepper Bridge Cabernet and 2003 Seven Hills Merlot. Production also includes red blends, a white blend and Black Muscat, Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay. Releases consistently score 90+ points in Wine Spectator.
Wine production occurs in the mountains north of Spokane at Mountain Dome winery. While Mountain Dome is a special place and a fine producer of Sparkling wine, Dave saw an opportunity to bring wine, food and art together in Downtown Spokane. In 2004, after lobbying the state legislature, Dave opened Washington’s second cooperative / collaborative tasting room featuring wine from five “off-site” wineries; Grande Ronde, Mountain Dome, Masset, Morrison Lane, and Emvy Cellars. The basement tasting room at 906 W. 2nd Ave offers a fantastic opportunity to enjoy a variety of Washington wine, art, education classes and even the occasional Gonzaga Bulldog basketball game.
New for 2010 is an event facility for up to 40. Small wedding, corporate and private events can enjoy the cellar like atmosphere adjacent to the tasting room. “The Last Drop” is operated independently from the tasting room and requires a serving license to serve wine.
With 30 years in the wine business, Dave and partner Sam Lange have a wealth of knowledge from their miles of travels. 2009 marked the release of the first (in a series) Journey to Eastern Washington Wine Country. The series is a handbook of for wine lovers as they travel across the state offering suggestions on where to eat and where to sleep as they taste their way across the state. The first book focuses on Walla Walla, Spokane, and Northern Idaho. Additional books in the series will continue the journey across the Northwest.
Grande Ronde Tasting Room
906 W. Second Ave
Spokane, WA 99201
Open: Wed-Saturday 11:00 am to 5:00 pm (Open later on First Friday’s)
2003 Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 100% Seven Hills Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Swirl: Very dark purple, opaque, Welch’s grape juice color
- The Sniff: Bright blueberry and cherry fruit, pretty grapey too – a wonderful spice comes up at the tail end of the sniff – good aromatic wine
- The Sip: The fruit is more subdued on the palate but presents a nice earthy blueberry and grape flavor with hints of vanilla and pepper spice. A nice acidity on the back end helps provide a medium length finish. Tannins are moderate but not harsh.
- The Score: At $30, this is a nice fruit forward Cabernet that I can score a 3+ (out of 5).
Previous 2002 Vintage scored 90 at Wine Spectator; Cellar Tracker (1 review) no score
PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED in December 2009
2005 Cellar Red
- The Stuff: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Carmenere 6% Merlot 4% Malbec
- The Swirl: Medium tone with a very nice purple jewel tone. Moderately see through
- The Sniff: Immediate sense of clove and cinnamon spice. The berry comes through on the back-end. A slight floral element presents itself
- The Sip: Still spicy on the sip with a good interesting flavor. Dark berry fruits begin to present themselves and the finish lingers for quite some time. Tannins, alcohol and acid are not dominant. My wife noted a perfume / soap taste.
- The Score: At $20 I score this wine a 3+ (out of 5) The wine has a wide flavor profile and gives the drinker a lot to consider. The floral components seem slightly out of balance with the clove and spice.
17 Feb 2010
Are you a wine blogger? Are you coming to Walla Walla, Washington for WBC10? June 25-27 nearly 300 wine bloggers will converge on South Eastern Washington for networking, education, and FUN! The best part, spending time in one of Washington’s premier wine regions with access to some of the greatest wine produced in the world! I know many of you are reading this and are planning on coming. How would YOU like a few extra expense paid days near nature, near perfect?
Spokane CVB (Visit Spokane) wants to host you. Spokane wants to share its wine with YOU! Spokane is home to one of the oldest wineries in the state and winemakers craft consistently high scoring wines. Enjoy the night at the historic Davenport Hotel, guided tour of Spokane wineries, and breakfast – lunch – and dinner! Flying into Spokane? Transportation can be arranged to Walla Walla for the conference.
Sound good? All you have to do is blog about and promote your experience on your web site, Twitter and Facebook pages. Interested? Contact email@example.com (or DM me @nectarwine) to discuss further. Only a few spaces are available to the most qualified bloggers (the Spokane Visitors Bureau will make the final selections).
Curious? Take a virtual Spokane Wine tour here.